Posts Tagged ‘United Methodist’

Barriers to Integration

October 26, 2008

Friendship Park in Imperial Beach, California, has long stood as a symbol of Amistad and brotherhood between the United States and Mexico. 160 years after the border was established at this point, people now speak and kiss and sing through the wire fence. At times it is eerily reminiscent of prison visitations, with legal immigrants like Manuel Meza sharing coffee through the fence with his wife who was deported several years ago (Archibold, Randal). If they concentrate on each other’s faces, the fence almost seems to disappear as it moves out of focus…

The Department of Homeland Security, however, is repartitioning this monument to international goodwill. New fencing will create a no-man’s land barrier, ending Meza’s routine coffee hour with his wife, interrupting the yoga sessions that occur on both sides of the border concurrently, solidifying a distance which doesn’t exist between the Mexicans and Americans of San Diego. Another part of this new DHS plan is to fill in Smuggler’s Gulch with tons of dirt, yet one more sacrifice of beauty in exchange for control. Years ago, Pat Nixon came to this place and said, “I hate to see a fence anywhere.” Representative Bob Filner is opposing DHS’s plans to destroy this park & the cooperation it represents, while chief patrol officer Michael Fisher says, “It’s a real shame…[b]ut unfortunately, any time you have an area that is open, the criminal organizations are going to exploit that.” One might say it is akin to permanently shutting down the airports to prevent another 9/11, opting for maximum security at the sake of freedom.

But for now, San Diego and Tijuana are still united, if only here at Friendship Park. Rev. John Fanestil, a United Methodist minister, still conducts communion through the fence to people like Juventino Martin Gonzalez who was deported last month after 20 years working and raising a family on the other side of that fence. It is easy to understand the real reason why a wire fence will no longer do – one look across that fence, north or south, can only remind the viewer that we are all united, all the same, all one. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/us/22border.html?_r=1&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y&oref=slogin)

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Another barrier to immigration is the employers who would just as soon see extralegal immigrants remain illegal and undocumented. As long as our laws allow economy to trump dignity, this abuse of power will continue. This past week, though, Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn saw a victory for immigrant workers. After years of hard work, Andrew Friedman and the Make the Road New York organization have successfully brought civil suits against employers who extorted and took advantage of immigrant workers. The courts ruled that a local fruit stand owed $28,000 in back pay, a dollar store owed $70,000, a sneaker chain $400,000. Yet for every one of these employers, hundreds more continue to profit from the inability of their workers to achieve full citizenship status. (Clines, Francis)

If citizenship is the first step, education is the next on the path to integration. A Migration Policy Institute survey just found that 1/5 immigrants with college degrees are unemployed or working in unskilled labor fields. (Aizenman, N.C.) These 1.3 million legal and extralegal immigrants could be vital contributors to our economy, yet their lack of English fluency and nativist feelings keep them from using their valuable skills. More than half of Latin-American college graduates are working unskilled jobs, and that number only falls to 1/3 for those living here 10 years or more. African immigrants have the highest unemployed rates of all immigrant groups in the U.S.

Iraqi refugees are given three-month stipends when they come here. Pressed to find a job and integrate rapidly, many highly-skilled professionals are scrambling for a minimum-wage job. My friend and ESL conversation partner starts his job at a furniture factory tomorrow, despite the fact that he ran two such factories in Iraq. His friend, a nationally renowned sculptor, hopes to get a job laying bathroom tile.

Because few foreign credentials transfer to the United States and few immigrants are given the language education they need, we miss out on the contributions of so many. Surely we can do better.

(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/10/23/ST2008102300319.html)

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People of Faith United For Immigrants- United Methodist Church

February 4, 2008

    In his Autobiography, Martin Luther King writes, “Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds” (189). And yet that is exactly what we have today. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there are some 12 million extralegal residents within our borders, all of whom have minimal rights of citizenship, justice, or recourse. As long as our restrictive immigration system perpetuates this sort of criminalization of its working class, our nation will continue to house millions of outsiders who could become even more of an asset to our society if only granted the basic rights we citizens take for granted. Though economic, historic, and sociological arguments have been and will continue to be made successfully, ultimately the immigration issue is a moral and a personal one. These are people who are being affected by this legislation, not numbers or statistics like our border checkpoints would have you think on their signs.

    The United Methodist Church is at the forefront of pro-immigrant actions here in the United States. Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago was in the headlines all last year as they gave sanctuary to undocumented Mexican immigrant Elvira Arellano. From the moment she was first arrested at a 2002 immigrant sweep at O’Hare airport, Sra. Arellano sought refuge with the United Methodists. Despite the fact that Elvira Arellano has since been deported to Mexico, Adalberto UMC continues to pro-actively campaign for immigration reform through its nonviolent acts of civil disobedience in providing sanctuary to another extralegal immigrant, Flor Crisostomo.

    Like so many Christians, these United Methodists took to heart Matthew 25:34-40

Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (NIV)

In showing Christian love to these immigrants on the wrong side of a broken system, these Methodists are showing solidarity for the plight of the stranger, of the disadvantaged, of the voiceless and right-less.

Twelve years ago, the United Methodist Church committed its stance on immigration to paper in a resolution dealing specifically with illegal immigration. The following clearly lays out this 1996 official statement of the United Methodist Church.

WHEREAS, the Holy Scriptures call us as the community of God to give shelter, protection and help to sojourners living amongst us, reminding us that we, too, were foreigners in other times; and

WHEREAS, the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church through its document To Love the Sojourner has given the various boards, commissions, and agencies of The United Methodist Church direction as we relate to undocumented persons that live in our communities; and

WHEREAS, undocumented persons possess certain inalienable rights named and lifted in the International Declaration on Human Rights, the United Nations charter, as well as the documents concerning immigration of the Geneva Convention, and the Constitution of the United States Bill of Rights; and

WHEREAS, one of the most critical issues facing the Hispanic community today is the need for amnesty for the undocumented immigrants living within the United States; and

WHEREAS, being an undocumented person is NOT a crime;

Therefore, be it resolved, that we, The United Methodist Church, declare that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Resolution Act is evil and unjust, and that the enforcement thereof results in immediate and insufferable human rights violations, discrimination, and oppression.

We call the United States government to accountability and insist upon:

1) changes in, and possible abolition of, the 1996 immigration law;

2) the continued existence of a unified Immigration and Naturalization Service, rather than a division into administrative and enforcement prosecutorial branches, and

3) the development of an amnesty program for undocumented persons to be implemented immediately.

*The UMC commitment to immigrants is laudable, extending well beyond the words of this document and into the world of nonviolence. In addition to civil disobedience in the form of sanctuary churches, the United Methodist church is also participating in the 2008 No Border Wall Walk from Roma to Brownsville, TX. Pastor Juan Sales and his parishioners in Rio Grande City should be applauded for their brotherly love and their willingness to work for the immigrant.*